Families should be prepared when emergencies strike

GREENVILLE — September is National Preparedness Month, and according to Save the Children, as many as 40 percent of American families do not have an emergency plan in place.

The American Red Cross is encouraging families to be ready for emergencies, such as a home fire or medical emergency, by putting a disaster plan into place.

Emergencies can happen to anyone at any time, so emergency preparedness and safety education is important for families to address.

Many families are not prepared for an emergency because they believe some of the common misconceptions.

1) It won’t happen here.

Virtually any area in the country is at risk for some form of natural disaster. Just because Darke County is not in a high-profile area for disasters like the hurricane-prone southeast coast or the devastating earthquakes of the west, they still happen here. Severe thunderstorms and lightning threaten the area nearly every year. We also get blizzards, tornadoes and flooding. In fact, though it’s become a dim memory for most, this area has even been struck by damaging earthquakes.

Besides that, medical emergencies and accidents can happen to anyone.

2) I don’t want to scare my children.

“Many parents worry about the right way to approach these conversations with children,” said Sarah Thompson, associate director of community preparedness with Save the Children in a recent press release. “By providing children age-appropriate education, you’re providing them with lifelong safety skills and a sense of mastery that will help them effectively respond to and cope with emergencies.”

By educating your children about the dangers, they can feel more prepared and less scared.

3) I can protect my children.

Most children spend a significant time away from their parents in school and activities, and with other care providers. There’s also the very real possibility of a medical emergency with a parent. Every member of the family should be involved in learning what to do at home, school and play should an emergency arise. They should know where to go, what to do and whom to contact.

4) We’re already prepared.

Having the discussion is the first step, but emergency preparedness is an ongoing process. Being prepared requires more than having a plan and emergency supplies. It needs practice and maintenance, including regular emergency drills and making sure emergency contacts and supplies are updated as needed. Practice your evacuation plan twice a year and plan alternative routes in case roads are impassable.

Make a plan

• Determine the facilities in your area that will be used as emergency shelters.

• Designate a meeting area if your family gets separated.

• Make an emergency contact outside your immediate area that would not be affected by a local disaster.

• Teach your children basic personal information to identify themselves, how to dial 911 and how to reach your emergency contact.

• Program all cell phones with “ICE” (in case of emergency) contacts, as well as all family members and out-of-town contacts. Also keep emergency contacts in writing, in case phones are lost, damaged or otherwise inoperable.

• Remind family members that often text messages can go through when phone calls cannot, and even when cell networks are down, it’s important to keep contact information available.

Every family member should have a backpack or portable bag with essential hygiene items and emergency contacts. Children’s kits should include contact and medical information, recent photos of the child and parents, comfort food and snacks, activity items such as books, and comfort items such as a stuffed toy.

Through Sept.30 the American Red Cross is offering a 10 percent discount on items from the Red Cross Store by using the coupon code PREPAREDNESS. The store can be found at www.redcross.org.

The Northern Miami Valley office of the Red Cross is offering First Aid/CPR/AED classes this month to help families prepare for medical emergencies that can occur at home or away.

Classes are Sept. 14, 6-8 p.m., Sidney Red Cross Chapter, 207 W. Water St.; Sept. 15, 9 a.m.-noon, Darke County Red Cross Chapter, 130 Martz St.; Sept. 17, 10 a.m.-noon; Clark County Red Cross Chapter, 1830 N. Limestone St.; Sept. 24, 6-8 p.m., Clark County Red Cross Chapter, 1830 N. Limestone St.; Sept. 25, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Troy Red Cross Chapter, 1314 Barnhart Road; and Sept. 29, 10 a.m.-noon, Clark County Red Cross Chapter, 1830 N. Limestone St.

Classes are $85 and registration is required. To register, call 800-REDCROSS (800-733-2767), or visit www.redcross.org/take-a-class. Successful students will receive a certificate valid for two years.

September is National Preparedness Month

By Rachel Lloyd

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Reach the writer by calling 937-569-4354 or on Twitter @RachelLloydGDA.